Interview: A conversation with comic book artist Chris Burnham

Villordsutch chats with comic book artist Chris Burnham about his work on Batman Incorporated and his upcoming projects, including the creator-owned horror title Nameless with Grant Morrison….

Villordsutch: An easy question to start the ball rolling; which comic are you reading at the moment and is it any good?

Chris Burnham: 2000AD on my iPad. The new Judge Dredd serial, TITAN, is especially good. Judges who have gone rogue are shipped off to a prison on Saturn’s moon Titan, and Dreddy has to lead a secret raid on the place to discover why all communication with the joint has mysteriously been cut off. Henry Flint is THE 2000AD artist of the last decade or so, and Rob Williams is doing a bang-up job of adding enough wrinkles and complications to make this simple set up sing. Good shit.

V: With your name now firmly stamped in Batman (if not comic book) history the doors must easily open for projects in the future, though this cannot have been always the case. Is there any moment in your career that’d like to forget?

CB: Huh. I think my biggest regret from the days when I was breaking in was when I had the chance to go with my brother and my best buddy to see Green Day on their American Idiot tour but chose instead to go out to dinner with some comic pros I’d just met. They’re nice enough guys, but I never ended up working with them, and my buddy is still busting my balls about missing the greatest concert ever.

V: Looking across your previous work you’ve had your fingers in many pies, though sometimes for only one or two issues each title. Did you ever doubt yourself or abilities when it came to doing a straight run on Batman Inc.?

CB: Well, just before Batman Inc I did seven straight issues of The Amory Wars, where I proved to myself that I could hit a monthly deadline if my feet were put to the fire. That said, I certainly doubted that I could follow in Yanick Paquette’s footsteps and not be tarred and feathered for my efforts!

V: When you initially explained the idea behind Batman Inc. did a spark of inspiration strike about how you wanted it to look like or was it a 4 a.m. hair pulling, throwing a dart at a collection of sketches moment?

CB: I basically just drew the way I’d been drawing for the previous couple of years and leaned into the Frank Quitely influence a little harder and more consciously than I had been. Easy as that.

V: As mentioned earlier your name is stamped in comic book history, but growing up who was your favourite artist who you aspired to be like?

CB: John Buscema. How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way was my bible, and the Stern/Buscema/Palmer run on Avengers is was really got me into collecting comics.

V: I adored looking at the pages of Batman Inc. and before I started these questions I went back through and re-read every issue but paying more attention to what I was actually looking at. One of my favourite moments was the shards of glass used as panels on the page. I know it sounds simple, but I found in fascinating. Throughout the thirteen issues can you put your finger on one piece of work that made you proud?

CB: There’s a fair amount in there that I’m pretty pleased with. I’m still surprised that I seem to have been the first person to do the infinite recursive Batman gag from the cover to #13. And I really like that Damian fetus doing the fist-palm motion on the last page of 13. Oh, and I love that little panel of El Gaucho jumping for the meta-bomb on page 7 or so.

V: Where are you now in the comic universe; are you taking a step back to breathe or is that not in your make-up?

CB: I’m still busting hump! I recently finished the Judge Dredd FCBD story, I’ve got a few more days of work to do on a project that I can’t talk about at the moment, and then it’s time to really get cranking on NAMELESS, the new horror book I’m doing with Grant at Image! We’ve been talking about doing a creator-owned book since we first started working together on Batman & Robin #16, and I’m super psyched that we’re finally doing it! It’s a little too early to talk about anything specific, but I think it’s going to be weird and horrible and like nothing Grant or I have ever done before.

V: A question for myself: – What is Grant Morrison like in person? I’ve loved his work for years and I’m waiting for the day where someone asks, “Who would like to interview Grant Morrsion?”

CB: He’s a super nice, very enthusiastic guy. Not nearly as omnipotently weird as he comes off in interviews, and very charmingly nerdy. The last time we hung out we got into a serious geek session over Gerry Anderson’s UFO and the Moench/Gulacy Master of Kung-Fu. Good shit (although I think Straker is such a tit that he basically ruins UFO. They really should have switched the casting of the two main characters).

V: Finally, I like to ask for advice for people who aspire to be involved in the comic book universe; if you can give one gem of information to people looking to be comic book artists what would you give?

CB: Just go out there and draw the awesomest comic you can. RIGHT NOW. Don’t waste any time on sample pages, just make your own crazy comics. And don’t wait until you think you’re good enough or you’ve got the right paper or you’ve finally saved up for a Cintiq or whatever other dumb excuses you give yourself to not get your shit done. Just fucking make some comics. And then shove them in the faces of everyone who breathes.

Many thanks to Chris Burnham for taking the time for this interview. Visit his official site here and follow him on Twitter.

Villordsutch likes his sci-fi and looks like a tubby Viking according to his children. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.